By Walter Rutledge
The bright late morning sun was still drying the dew off the grass, but Fort Green Park was already bustling with energy. As I climbed the white marble stairs the sound of music greeted me halfway up. Patiently waiting at the base of the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument was Jamel Gaines, a tall man sporting a retro curly “fro”.
Soon the large plaza in front of the monument begin to fill with dancers of all ages, shapes and sizes. Gaines, the founder of Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn, has spent the more than 25 years building and cultivating the performing arts in Brooklyn. Long before Starbucks, trendy bars and little ugly dogs found Brooklyn’s urban landscape; Gaines had established an artistic foothold in the Fort Green section at 138 S Oxford Street.
If you have ever visited the Creative Outlet school, it has a feeling of a community/village. Parents monitor classes and assist with moving younger students between classrooms, there is a lunch concession that offers affordable hot meals and healthy snacks to the participants and family members. The focused classes resembled the most disciplined arts academy; the biggest difference of was the amount of melanin.
The pandemic put an end to the communal learning approach, and the use of traditional performing venues. Creative Outlet was forced to close its studios, but not suspend activities. Staying true to form Gaines began teaching free classes outdoors at Fort Green Park three days a week.
Creative Outlet Free Dance Class
On Thursday and Friday at 6pm and on Saturday at 11am Creative Outlet offers free classes dubbed as, “Culturally Healing and Movement Classes”. There are classes for all ages including a fun jazz-based movement class for children on Saturday morning. One of the most reassuring elements about these classes is that Gaines has brought Creative Outlet’s feeling of community with him. The first outdoor class had only six attendees; now there are over forty artists of all ages.
In addition to dance classes the Creative Outlet Queens, an interdisciplinary and multi-generational performing ensemble that also rehearses at Fort Green Park. The “Queens” will perform at Peace One Love a Black Lives Matter celebration on Saturday August 29th from 2-5pm at the Black Lives Matter Mural at Restoration Plaza (Fulton Street between New York Ave. and Brooklyn Ave). Although this is an outdoor event please practice social distancing whenever possible and please wear a mask.